New Study Links Time Spent Playing Video Games to Kids’ Behavior

Two kids playing video games

According to one study, time spent playing video games affects children more than the actual games they play.
Image: Shutterstock

A recent study from the University of Oxford has found that video games can have some impact on children’s behavior; however, it’s not the kind of games they’re playing, but how much they play that matters.

Since video games became popular in the early 1980s, parents, teachers, and legislators have worried about their impact on children. Puzzle games have often been touted as beneficial, helping children develop critical thinking skills, while violent video games have been accused of leading to real world violence on numerous occasions.

This study finds that neither of these things is really true, and what matters is how much time kids spend playing video games. Even then it’s not that big of an impact.

The study consisted of 200 children in England, between the ages of 12 and 13, who were asked how much time they spent playing video games each day. Their teachers were asked how those kids performed in school. What they found out was that kids who spent three or more hours a day playing video games tended to be more hyperactive, less focused on school, and more prone to causing trouble or getting into fights. On the other hand, kids who played for about an hour a day actually saw some academic improvement.

The types of games played were largely irrelevant, although there were some correlations. Kids who enjoyed cooperative or competitive games where they engaged with other people often had less emotional problems. Meanwhile children who played more solitary games often had stronger academic performance.

In any case, the researchers pointed out that video games are just another form of play, one native to the digital era. They stated that video games were a statistically significant but minor factor in children’s behavior. What the means is that the amount of time spent playing might have some minor impact on children’s behavior, but video games are neither saviors nor destroyers of children.

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